Challenge is to develop Chinese players in Hong Kong
By Charlie Burke
I have been in the role of coach of the Hong Kong national team for about 18 months, and I am the senior coach for the national senior men's and women's teams, as well as the Under-19s men's and women's teams.
Unlike coaching national teams at the very highest level of international cricket, there's a fair amount of development work to do. This is something I am really keen on doing. Cricket has been around for about 160 years in Hong Kong, but we still don't have a lot of local Chinese players. I reckon at the moment we'd be close to having 200-250 local Chinese people playing the game regularly, being part of a team and playing on weekends. About a third of my role, if not more, is taken up by the development side of the game, and that's something we need to focus on if we are going to become more competitive.
There's also a fair amount of administration to the role too, but I am fortunate because I have five full-time coaching staff under me. We've been able to set up development in schools directly, and emerging squads, and we are working towards creating improved player pathways.
We've just employed a Chinese development coordinator, who speaks Cantonese, Mandarin and English. He's also played a bit of cricket, so he is ideal for the role of developing cricket within the local Chinese community. We've worked together pretty closely over the last few months, going to schools and universities, and we're starting a Chinese Universities competition that will run through the summer in Hong Kong.
I think we have a really good chance to build the game in Hong Kong - it is the only sport in the country that we are ranked in the world's top twenty at. We need to provide people with the opportunity to play cricket, and that comes down to improving facilities, equipment, resources, and all sorts of things. We need to start getting people of younger ages playing, so it is really important that we focus on junior development.
As well as developing the game in the Chinese community in Hong Kong, we've been working very closely with the Chinese Cricket Association over the past two to three years. We've got Guangzhou Stadium, where we played the Asian Games, and later this year the Women's Asia Cup will be held there. It's a superb venue, so now that we've got that facility we need to work more closely with the Chinese Cricket Association in terms of coaching and creating awareness of the game.
I have had an interesting journey to becoming the national coach of Hong Kong. After playing club cricket in Western Australia, I took on a role with Western Australia Cricket Association as a development officer, going to schools to teach cricket, and coaching the Western Australian women's team and development squads. I had a huge hunger for coaching, even at the age of 21. I went to the UK as a player coach, got a chance to do a Level Three coaching badge in Australia, which is normally only available to people who have played Test cricket, and worked for the ICC in the East Asia-Pacific region, where I was travelling around countries like Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Japan, trying to raise the standards of their national teams. This really gave me a taste for Associate cricket, so when the Hong Kong job came up I couldn't resist applying.
Lou Vincent, who has obviously played at the highest level for New Zealand, has also been working with our squad for the past six months, and he has been vital for where we need to go in terms of high performance. He was keen to look at the coaching side of the game, while I was looking for a batting coach; I wanted a current player, someone the team could go and watch, and who could help with the mental side of the game. He's done a terrific job for us.
We challenge players to be the best they can be, so we're contradicting ourselves if we don't do it as coaches. I'd love to have the opportunity in the future to coach an ODI team. As a coach, you've got to be focused on not just improving your players, but also the coaches working for you - it's not just about winning trophies.
For the moment though, I am very focused on trying to help Hong Kong improve as a team, in all formats of the game, and trying to perform as well as we can at the ICC World Twenty20 2012 Qualifier.